Our Two Natures: Gaining the Victory!
I would like to know from a psychological and also from a Biblical point of view, does a Christian really have two natures? In other words can a converted person have a new born again nature and an old carnal nature at the same time or is a born again person completely free from the old man?
What does Psychology have to say about this?
This question ties in perfectly with our discussion in SS class yesterday and a f/u point I wanted to make, so thanks for sending it.
The short answer is, yes, we have two natures, but it was not always this way, and will not always be this way.
In the beginning there was only one – one principle, one method, one motive, one attitude, one religion, one God – love, selfless, other-centered love. This was the original nature of mankind, perfect beneficent, giving, other-centered love.
But now there are two. Because of Adam’s sin humanity became infected with an antagonistic principle, a principle that is the opposite of love, a method that is opposed to giving, a motive that wars with beneficence, an attitude that is hostile to others, a religion that undermines trust, a god who is to be feared.
Because of Adam’s sin humanity was changed from beings operating only on perfect other-centered love and trust, to minds and hearts filled with fear and selfishness, which is commonly called, “survival-of-the-fittest.” Today we each struggle against the inherent desire to promote self, protect self and exalt self.
Sadly, modern psychiatry/psychology would say the “survival-of-the-fittest” instinct is normal, and healthy, and part of our evolutionary history and vital for adaptation and survival. But, such a conclusion is wrong. This me-first instinct, is what the Bible describes as “the law of sin and death” and is Satan’s infection to God’s creation. We are all, born into this condition, which, if unremedied, is terminal. (Ps 51:5).
Thankfully, because of God’s love and grace, He did not abandon us to this infection of selfishness and fear, but began intervening in our hearts and minds with His Spirit to draw, woo and influence us back to Him. We each have a desire from something better, to be free from fear and selfishness. Yet despite that desire, we, of ourselves, cannot change our hearts/minds/characters and be free of this destructive motive.
Therefore, Christ came to restore God’s perfect love/nature into the species human and destroy the infection of fear and selfishness. Because of Christ’s victory, each of us is privileged to receive, as a free gift, the very “mind of Christ” via the indwelling Spirit.
From the moment of conversion until glorification, the converted man has a daily battle between his renewed heart of love, and his inherited nature of fear and selfishness. Day by day, through a relationship with Christ, we may choose to trust Him and experience victories over our old nature. In such a relationship we grow daily in love until the day Christ returns and frees us permanently from fear and selfishness and then again there will be only one, one perfect unified creation operating upon love for God and each other.
This is the point I wanted to make in SS class yesterday. The scriptures tell us:
“we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5).
When we find ourselves in difficult circumstances, when we are mistreated, when others spread falsehoods about us, turn their backs on us, send letters which misrepresent us and otherwise say evil against us, our carnal natures will be tempted to “protect self,” to retaliate, to lash back.
But, such times are the very opportunities to experience God’s healing of our minds and hearts. It is when we are faced with such temptations that we have the opportunity to surrender our hearts and minds to God, to trust Him with our lives, our reputations, our circumstances. It is at such times we can choose to love our enemies, to refrain from retaliation, to say no to the temptation to “protect self” and instead trust God and love others. And in so doing, we open the heart to God and He pours His love into our hearts.
And, because God is love, this means He pours Himself into our hearts! We become partakers of the divine nature! Our neural circuits actually rewire! The part of the brain that governs, that loves, that empathizes, that is compassionate grows stronger, and the fear circuits grow weaker. We actually become more and more like Jesus!
It is when we are faced with maltreatment from others that we stand at the door of transformation, at the precipice of renewal, at the border of freedom – freedom from that old life of fear and selfishness. Let us surrender our lives to Christ resist the temptation to retaliate and instead, love as He has loved us!